Stephen Covey, the author of ‘Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’ is no more with us. But he will be remembered by millions for what he taught us which, according to him, ‘all that people had to do was form habits out of their best instincts.’
Pondering over the reasonably successful career that I had, rather than ‘beginning with the end in mind, I recall, beginning from the end (of my career), how I could succeed in my career by following what I would call the TRIUMPH formula, my own seven habits.
I write this article as a humble dedication to this great Management Guru – some humble thoughts from an ordinary mortal ‘to Fortune and Fame unknown.’
As an ordinary man,I could succeed in my career getting opportunities and challenges throughout my career and I which I readily embraced. . While looking back, I find that what helped me was the TRIUMPH formula – This word has seven letters and i would call it the seven habits, which are explained below.
If you want to improve, you have to make thinking a habit. When you start thinking, you get several ideas, you get clarity about the subject you think about, you get a deeper understanding of the subject. I used my leisure time to think on various aspects with regard to my own improvement. Gradually, the thoughts began to appear to me every time i had time to think of, the leisure time.
Thus I could think of something while traveling in a bus on way to my office, on return from office, while sleeping and while awake during sleep due to broken or disturbed sleep. This way, some one could say that I productively used my time. Many times, when my sleep used to get cut off around 3 or 4 0’clock in the morning, thoughts used to rush to my mind. in fact, I was very particular about putting down these thoughts in writing, the moment I landed at the office – either scribbling on a piece of paper or so, sometimes dictating straightway to my P.A. The result – the bulk of my writings running over seventy pieces, turned to be nicely written articles. And no wonder, these got published in quick succession too.
I recall what Tom Peter had said in his Tom Peters Seminar. According to him, Samuel Johnson, said: ‘all intellectual improvements arise in leisure.’ another example of this, he says is that ‘when stuck, Thomas Edison would unfailingly take a nap.’ and again he says, according to a US poet laureate, ‘we don’t pay enough attention to day-dreaming, without which no bridges would soar, no light bulbs burn, and no Greek warships set upon Homer’s ‘wine-dark-sea.’ Abdul Kalam himself has advocated about the benefits of dreaming.
Reading is another way to enhance one’s knowledge as also thinking. I used to at least go through quickly the various magazines, journals, books etc. that Prof. Menon (with whom I worked for almost a decade) used to receive regularly. Again, reading books from libraries is something I cultivated as a practice. When I was in the Personnel Division of DOE, hundreds of books were available in the library and I could say I benefited a lot by reading them.Seeing my writings, Mr.Vittal, Secretary of the Department himself used to recommend to me the books that he would order for the library to read. I could read and benefit immensely through several latest management books by great writers.
I have derived great inspiration from Prof. M.G.K. Menon, This was indeed a rare and great opportunity, since he was involved in a wide spectrum of activities and had held multiple responsibilities. But it is necessary to have the urge to learn from great people. I used to watch carefully the way he writes, the way he makes decisions, the way he talks, the way he delivers a speech etc. in fact, I used to watch every aspect of his working. Even mere watching him this way was a great inspiration. I used to read his decisions on files and also used to try to go into the rationale for his decision.
Watching the way he communicates, through letters particularly, made me learn many things. Each aspect of a letter – the beginning, the words used, the style, the conclusion, rather a deep study of it through all of which I could imbibe some of his style which enabled me greatly to think of what way he would like a letter to be written. And by doing this, I could attempt letters he wants to write, almost the way he would himself write. This helped me a lot in terms of confidence building and also making him have confidence in me about my capabilities. He used to say, as communicated by some one else to me, that ‘ CVS knows what exactly I want.’ What a great inspiration he was for me.
By uniqueness I mean cultivating some special qualities and maintaining them. It could also mean creating a niche for you, a brand for you and a demand for you through your abilities, qualities and capabilities; and a self-image through which others will perceive you. In my career I could show my talents through the opportunities I received, and others, particularly my bosses at various times associated me to work with them by a so- called image and brand I could create which transformed into a demand for my services. A major demand for my services was for working as Officer on Special Duty In the Science Advisor Council to Prime Minister, and in fact I had actually performed special duties which earned appreciation for my work from all members of the Council, including it’s Chairman, Prof. C.N.R. Rao.
Motivation plays a very important part in an individual’ development. Normally, one does not expect any kind of motivation in Government. But in my case, throughout my 25 year career in the Government, I was fortunate to get abundant motivation, not only in my actual work, where I could excel, but also in my writings. Mr. N. Vittal was the prime motivator for whatever little I have succeeded in my writings. A few poems, a note analyzing the way Mr. Vittal functioned, a few articles on time management, personnel matters etc. were all well appreciated by him through encouraging remarks to spur my activity in this field further. I could write fifty odd articles. A compilation of all my articles on HR was liked by him and he readily gave a foreword for a book containing all those articles.
Even, after my retirement, after a lapse of over a decade, I started writing, made possible by an iPad gifted to me by my son. And again, it was Mr. Vittal, who continued his motivation for my writings, appreciating the few short pieces that I mailed to him and prodding me through his advice: ‘Dear CVS, keep writing.’ Of course, the best motivation is self-motivation (driven by an “I can do” attitude) which also I could practice. in fact, I am motivating myself at the age of 75 by engaging myself in thinking and writing on whatever comes to my mind.
You have to practice patience and perseverance. Because all efforts by you may not produce quick results as you expect. At the same time, continuous efforts with focus on your goals will certainly take you there. in my case, I persisted in my efforts to get my compilation of articles on human resources published as a book, come whatever may. And after several attempts spanning over a period of three years, my dream came true. I became the author of a book! One can recall what Confucius said: ‘our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising every time we fail.’ My immediate boss was thrilled and said to me: ‘I say CVS, I always knew you will be persistent.’
One should be humble always, irrespective of whatever one may have achieved. People will always respect a humble person. Mr. Narayana Murthy referred to him as an ordinary individual. Not only that, humbleness, and the associated simplicity should always be your hall mark. in my case, many of my subordinates still respect me, since I had always treated them as friends first and then their boss, allowing them freedom to indulge in jokes in the workplace. If you read together the first letters of each of the above qualities it will read TRIUMPH, and so it was.
About the author: The author of this article is Shri C.V. Subramaniam. He retired as Director in the Department of Information Technology, GOI and has held several important positions in the Government. He has published 70 plus articles in various leading news papers and has also published a book on Human Resource Management.